Send the Oil Severance Back to the Voters

treadmill Pictures, Images and PhotosOver in the Legislature, two Assembly members are working valiantly to institute a oil severance tax in the rat wheel that is also known as our Legislature.  Round and round they go. How they hope to get 2/3, nobody knows. Yet, clearly it is important that the issue continue to come up in the Capitol’s conversation, so that much makes these bills worth the time.

As oil companies continue to reap record profits amid strained state revenues, a pair of Democratic lawmakers are hoping to tap into their deep pockets by installing an oil severance tax that could relieve growing pressures to cut more state services.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Long Beach, introduced a bill Monday called the Fair Share Act, that would impose a 10 percent oil severance fee on extractions from California wells to bring in $1.5 billion to the state’s coffers.

A similar bill that has already cleared one committee, by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, would impose a 9.9 percent fee, but would earmark the revenues to higher education funding. (CoCo Times 10/27/09)

But the fact is that there is never going to be 2/3 to get any oil severance tax out of the Assembly, let alone through both houses of the Legislature.

If the oil severance, or really any taxes, are going to be passed, it is going to require, for the time being, to go to the voters.  The oil severance tax is supported by majorities in most polls. It will not be an easy campaign, as we saw from Prop 87 a few years ago. The oil companies will spend whatever it takes to avoid paying oil severance.

Yet we cannot continue to be the one state that doesn’t charge oil severance. If there is going to be drilling in the state, the state should get something back to not only mitigate the costs of that drilling, but to also ensure that there is something left when the drilling is over. To ensure that when the oil companies leave the state, as is bound to happen, that we are left with an education system that can build innovators for the future.

It will take a strong case laid out by Democrats and other progressives, but as a Texan whose education was subsidized by such a tax, it is something that we have to do.

9 thoughts on “Send the Oil Severance Back to the Voters”

  1. As these Assembly members are also running for Attorney General, I should mention that I’m doing some work for Kamala Harris’s campaign for Attorney General.

  2. This needs to be on the ballot.

    First, it’s just good policy. Second, and probably more to the point, it’s great politics.

  3.   The key is to designate a target for new taxes.  Steinberg’s surcharge on those making more than 1 millin dolalrs a year passed because the money was earmarked for mental health. The oil severance taxed failed because the money wsa to go to the general fund. Earmarking it for education will help ensure it passes.

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